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OAK HARBOR Oak Harbor wrestling coach George Bergman said his program abides by the adage: Hard work beats talent if talent doesn t work hard.
But the Rockets opponents face a double-edge sword from a team that possesses both unbelievable work ethic and superb skill. Oak Harbor is ranked No. 2 in the state in Division II, has lost just one dual meet this season and is never outworked.
We believe in that mind-set, Bergman said. That goes with the sport. Wrestling is a blue-collar sport. If we put in more time than you do, and if our abilities are the same, we ll beat you.
Two-a-day practices are typically reserved for the grueling preseason, but the Rockets maintain those along with morning weight lifting sessions all season long.
Senior Cody Magrum is the shining example of how the arduous work has paid off.
Magrum is a two-time defending state champion and has earned a scholarship to Ohio State University. Magrum is ranked No. 1 in Ohio in the 189-pound weight class with a 36-1 record, including 26 pins.
Sometimes you re going through three practices a day, Magrum said. It may seem a little extreme. But our coaches are always there pushing me. And I d be nothing without my teammates. That keeps me motivated.
The Rockets took second place in the Division II state duals on Jan. 17, beating Walsh Jesuit and Claymont before losing to St. Paris Graham in the final. St. Paris Graham is ranked No. 1 in Ohio and the nation.
The Rockets easily won the Oak Harbor and Perrysburg invitational tournaments.
For the second year in a row, they won the Sandusky Bay Conference duals with a 7-0 team record.
Oak Harbor placed third in the state as a team last March.
Kirk Tank, a senior, finished second in the state last season and was fourth in 2006. Tank, who will wrestle for Michigan State next season, is 37-4 with 25 pins.
We come to wrestle, Tank said. And our conditioning has shown.
Keith Witt (31-4, 22 pins) took fifth at state last season and was seventh in 2006.
The senior is headed to Kent State.
Tank said the extra work gives him a mental edge.
It s comforting to know that you did that extra sprint or wrestled the extra hour, Tank said. You know in the third period you can push through it.
There are no holes in the lineup. At 103, Jake Cramer has posted a 29-6 record with 11 pins as a freshman. Sophomore Drew Stone (28-7) has 17 falls at 112.
At 119, another freshman, Ian Miller, has a 28-5 record with 15 pins and defeated a defending state champ. At 125, freshman Konner Witt, Keith s brother, is 23-7 with 13 falls.
Senior David Banda has 12 falls and 19 wins at 130. Sophomore Zach Bergman (135) has 14 wins at 135, while senior BrandonWaters has 15 at 140.
Mike Mallernee, a sophomore, has racked up a 30-5 record in the 145 and 152 weight classes. Senior Tom Baker (17-8) at 215 and sophomore Zach Sandwisch (18-16) round out the heavyweights.
Magrum, who already has broken the school record in career wins along with Tank, said he never takes a match lightly.
I still get very nervous before every match, he said. Our coach always says, If you are not nervous, you are not ready. Every match I get real worked up. It doesn t matter if he looks awful or not. I get ready the same for every match.
The team has weight lifting, practice and extra practice on Mondays and Fridays.
The wrestlers have two practice sessions one after school and one at night on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Wednesdays, the team lifts weights in the morning and has just one practice after school.
With wrestling you have to do the extra stuff, Tank said.
Witt said the senior class works together and challenges the rest of the team.
If they re working hard it motivates me, Witt said. We re all in shape. It s a mental edge. It feels like we can always come out on top.
Magrum said drilling twice a day and lifting at 5:30 in the morning helped him earn a D-I scholarship.
I like the success I ve been having, Magrum said. It will put me through college too. I m really excited about that.
But Bergman said all work and no play is not his policy.
You have to work hard, but you have to have fun too, he said. It s a fine line. We play games once in a while.
He said the team will play dodgeball and handball in the wrestling room to lighten the intensity.
We try to read our team, Bergman said. We know when they are getting worn down and that we need to lighten up a bit. We know when to push them hard too.
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The Oak Harbor program has produced 16 state champions, 54 state medal winners, 123 individual league champs and 16 team league titles.
Witt said it s an honor to be part of that legacy.
We were motivated to be good as freshmen, Witt said. Now they are motivated by us working so hard.
Tank, who came from Genoa as a freshman, said it was disappointing finishing third at state last year.
This is our senior year and now we re solid all the way through the lineup, he said.
Magrum said winning a third straight title would be a dream come true.
As a team, if we take second that would be awesome. It s only been done one other time here. I think we re better this year than Oak Harbor has ever been. We re just a powerhouse. We don t have any weak weight classes. It s just incredible this year.
Bergman said the success is a community effort that begins with a Biddy program.
Magrum said he was 4 when he started.
You start training even when you re that young. Even the Biddy practices are tough, he said. All the little kids know that once they hit high school they will be successful. If you stay with it you are going to get good.
Bergman also credited his assistant coaches, Bill Sherf, Mark Starkey and Aaron Bomer for the program s consistency.
We have a nice junior high staff too, Bergman said. It s a whole community thing. We have a tradition here so we get good athletes out. Any coach could coach a kid like Cody Magrum or Kirk Tank. My wife could coach them. We have good athletes that work hard and that makes my job that much easier.
Bergman said his trio of seniors is a real special group. Magrum, Tank and Witt all won more than 30 matches and had over 20 pins as freshmen.
Kirk beat the defending state champ when he was a freshman, Bergman said. As an eighth-grader you know that they ll be good, but you don t know how good. It s a tribute to them. They all work hard and they re all good students.
The Rockets travel to Huron for the SBC tournament this weekend before embarking on the journey to Columbus with sectionals next weekend.
We are pushing ourselves as hard as we can because it is so important to us, Tank said. It s not easy, but being seniors we want to go out as Oak Harbor s best team in history. We want the most state placers and to finish second. That would be a great feeling. I ve known these guys forever. I want to leave on a good note.